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Buddy Charles Concert Jazz Orchestra: We're Here

Edward Blanco By

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Completing an unfinished work of art that began more than a decade ago, Buddy Charles put the final strokes to the canvas, with great perseverance and a little help from his friends, and unveiled this much-anticipated big band recording, aptly titled We're Here. A journey of twelve years—at the expense of some personal pain and professional agony for Charles—has at long last culminated in a rich big band recording sure to garnish acclaim.

The material is a testament to the fact that jazz is truly timeless, because it's as fresh today as when it was recorded in 1993. But Charles is just one part of the story. If you want to know the details, you can read in the liner notes, which by the way were written by AAJ's own Jack Bowers. The other part of this painting is the band. Charles gathered an all-star cast of West Coast musicians to form this concert jazz orchestra. Their reputation and experience serve notice to the listener that this is some very impressive music.

The personnel reads like a list of who's who on the big band jazz scene, including trumpeters Carl Saunders and George Graham; trombonists Charlie Loper, Bill Watrous, and Bob McChesney; and saxophonists Pete Christlieb, Jack Montrose, Jack Nimitz, and Gary Foster, just to name a few. Even the subs are recognizable big names like trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, trombonist Andy Martin, and bassist Trey Henry. Two members of the original orchestra, pianist Pete Jolly and tenor player Gordon Brisker, have since passed on to play with that—unfortunately ever-growing—ensemble in heaven.

The recording features two original compositions and arrangements by Charles, including the title cut, "We're Here." Jack Montrose penned and arranged several numbers, including "Quiet Knowings," a beautiful slow ballad on which he plays a long and moving tenor solo. "Navada Bravada," a Frank Mantooth number, spotlights the band's creative rhythm section. The late Mantooth also arranged the Miles Davis piece "Freddy The Freeloader." The Gordon Brisker tune "Lester Leaps Out" is a classic brassy big band number which features dueling sax solos by Montrose and Brisker, who also wrote "When I Close My Eyes."

An impessive big band album, We're Here offers excellent solos, engaging charts, and great ensemble work by a first-rate concert jazz orchestra. It's well worth the wait, and unlikely to dissapoint expectations. I found no better words to describe my final thoughts than this quote from Jack Bowers' liner notes:

...better late than never, more than fifty-six minutes of scintillating big band jazz by the sharpest ensemble you'd never encountered until now. I'm sure you'll agree that music this pleasurable not only should be heard, it must be heard...

A treasure of an album and a must hear for big band enthusiasts.


Track Listing: We're Here; Freddy The Freeloader; Quiet Knowings; Navada Bravada; Long Story Short; We'll Be Together Again; Sweat Birds Yard; Lester Leaps Out; Particles and Forces; When I Close My Eyes; Dama De La Noche (56:20).

Personnel: George Graham, Rick Baptist, Wayne Bergeron, Frank Szabo, Warren Luening, Carl Saunders: trumpet; Charlie Loper, Andy Martin, Bill Watrous, Bob McChesney, Ernie Tack: trombone; Charlie McLean, Gary Foster, Jack Montrose, Pete Christlieb, Gordon Brisker, Jack Nimitz: reeds; Pete Jolly: piano; Mike Higgins: guitar; Ray Brinker: drums; Chuck Berghoffer, Trey Henry: bass.

Title: We're Here | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Jazzed Media

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